Injuries may shunt Israel Dagg to wing

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2013
Crusaders inter-match
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ

USEFUL EXERCISE: Todd Blackadder says he and his fellow coaches ‘"got what we needed" from yesterday’s inter-squad match at Rugby Park.

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With another Crusaders wing injured, Israel Dagg may be under orders to answer an SOS.

A back injury to Johnny McNicholl means All Blacks fullback Dagg could be selected on the left wing when the Crusaders play their opening Super Rugby match on March 1 against the Blues in Auckland.

Dagg, who started at centre in a trial match against the Highlanders this month, could be looking at another positional switch.

Yesterday he played about 60 minutes in the No 11 jersey while Tom Taylor ran at fullback during the Crusaders' inter-squad trial match at Rugby Park.

Although Dagg is no stranger to the wing and played there in the opening rounds last season, he has always made it clear he prefers the No 15 on his back.

Injuries to Kurt Baker (hamstring) and McNicholl, and the absence of Zac Guildford, who is undergoing a rehabilitation programme for alcohol issues, may prevent Dagg from winning this argument.

Another regular starter in recent seasons, Sean Maitland, is now in Glasgow and playing for Scotland in the Six Nations.

Telusa Veainu has been recruited on a short-term basis from the Highlanders as cover but was not given a run in the top Crusaders XV yesterday. Adam Whitelock started on the right wing.

"Johnny has still got a wee back twinge that he got in the buildup to last week's game against the Waratahs. We are going to monitor him and give him a couple of weeks off," coach Todd Blackadder said.

"He's unlikely to play the Blues."

Although he also has the option of starting Tom Marshall at fullback, Blackadder is leaning towards starting Taylor, who joined the All Blacks as cover for injured first five-eighth Dan Carter on last year's northern tour.

"It [Taylor at fullback] is something we talked about and with injuries we have got we have discussed what are the best options out wide," he said.

"I was quite impressed, too, by the way they both played. We know Izzy is a world-class fullback but he slotted into the wing quite nicely."

Taylor has played at fullback for Canterbury and yesterday was entrusted with kicking the conversions.

Tyler Bleyendaal, whose favoured spot is first-five, ran at fullback in the Crusaders B side.

Tighthead prop Owen Franks also skipped the trial because of a tight quadriceps but is expected to represent the Crusaders Knights development side against their Highlanders equivalent on Saturday.

Wyatt Crockett played in the unfamiliar tighthead position for 60 minutes, while Joe Moody operated at loosehead.

Blackadder, who preferred to be the water boy and allow his assistant coaches to call the shots from the coaches' box, retained a predictable top XV for two of the 30-minute thirds and rotated George Whitelock at blindside flanker with younger brother Luke.

Kickable penalties were spurned and a score was not kept. The top Crusaders side retired after an hour.

"I was pleased with it, it was a good tough game," Blackadder stated.

"We got what we needed."

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